In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea: there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination. The enterprise is to keep afloat on an even keel: the sea is both friend and enemy: and the seamanship consists in using the resources of a traditional manner of behaviour in order to make a friend of every hostile occasion.It is clear that Oakeshott was a philosopher concerned not at all with what policies a government ought to adopt but with political reality as it is experienced through the haze of illusions in which we live. Unlike recent political philosophers, he was not interested in normative questions. The idea of human rights he thought a rather second-rate caricature of the inherited Common Law freedoms of English-speaking peoples. Social justice was merely a bit of political salvationism trading by its name on the real conceptions of justice found in any stable state. In most of these views, Oakeshott was part of that remarkable generation of political philosophers who lived through the totalitarian excesses of the 20th century and, after World War II, reflected on them. It is striking that those concerned with the reality of politics in that period—figures such as Leo Strauss, Eric Voegelin, and Hannah Arendt—still speak to us more directly than more recent figures dealing in normative argument. . . . Read the rest here: http://amconmag.com/article/2009/oct/01/00024/.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Minogue, Kenneth. "The Elusive Oakeshott." THE AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE October 1, 2009.
At the end of his Inaugural Lecture at the London School of Economics, Oakeshott, whose conservatism rested on his skepticism of all grand plans for human improvement, expressed the conservative position in a famous image: